Labour to fire starting gun on long election campaign against Tories

Party leader Keir Starmer showcased among list of core pledges to woo electorate, but promises run shy of detail

Britain’s Labour Party has stepped up its preparations for the next general election by effectively firing the starting gun on Thursday on a long campaign to woo voters.

Keir Starmer and several members of his shadow cabinet will be in Essex for the launch what the party is calling its “first steps” campaign, which includes a list of core pledges that it will sell to voters on doorsteps between now and the election later this year.

The campaign comprises six distinct policy promises on issues including the economy, immigration, energy, crime, health and education. It has echoes of the five pledges made 18 months ago by Tory prime minister Rishi Sunak, which included promises to grow the economy and “stop the boats”.

Labour’s version leads with a promise to “stabilise the economy” with strict spending controls. It also pledges to cut NHS waiting times and launch a new border security command staffed with hundreds of investigators to tackle illegal immigration and people trafficking. The fourth pledge is to set up a publicly owned Great British Energy company to supply “clean power”. Fifth is a promise to “crack down on anti-social behaviour” with more police. Finally, it promises 6,500 new teachers.


A Labour spokesman told reporters in Westminster the six pledges would be itemised and printed out in credit card size, to be handed out to voters. It is also launching a big billboard campaign in battleground seats that it hopes to win back from the Tories. The first-steps campaign will represent the party’s biggest advert spend since the last general election in 2019.

Starmer will travel to Essex, just outside London, to launch the campaign with a promise that a list of six policies represents a “downpayment on change”.

The poster campaign is particularly notable for how Starmer himself is pushed to the fore of the message, as Labour and the Tories prepare for a highly personalised Starmer vs Sunak-style campaign in which the merits of their respective leaders are at the heart of the debate.

Labour’s posters include the six-strong list of “my promises” illustrated by a stern-looking Starmer with his sleeves rolled up. When asked if it represented a “presidential style campaign”, a Labour spokesman confirmed it was a deliberate strategy to bring him to the fore.

“We wanted to put his personal stamp on it. People want to hear from the party leader. The posters show someone ready to serve with his sleeves rolled up, wanting to get on and work for the British people,” said the spokesman.

The six promises are also notable for how vague and immeasurable they seem, in contrast to Sunak’s pledge to, for example, “stop the boats” of refugees. The prime minister has faced criticism for not meeting many of his better-defined pledges, suggesting Labour is trying to avoid similar criticisms down the line. Except for the 6,500 teachers, none of the other Labour pledges contain much by way of metrics.

“What is crucial about these commitments is that they are part of a long-term plan to get Britain back on its feet,” Starmer is due to say on Thursday in Essex, in advance of the formal campaign launch.

While the launch signifies the beginning of an extended campaign for the election, Labour’s full manifesto will not be published until the prime minister starts the short campaign, which is expected to be about six weeks long, possibly in mid-November.

Labour is an average of about 20 percentage points ahead of its Tory rivals in most opinion polls, which suggests that the Tories’ 14-year stint in power may be nearing an end.